From West Nile to South Sudan
Helping a Neighbour to the North
Established as an independent country in 2011, South Sudan endured civil war from 2013 to early 2020. The country is still plagued by instability and violence, and a growing food crisis has left two-thirds of the population facing hunger. While South Sudan has fertile soil, challenges abound, with prolonged dry spells, general water scarcity, and insufficient technical farming knowledge to help farmers cope with erratic weather and difficult growing conditions. There is little variety in the available vegetables in the market, nearly all of which are imported from neighbouring Uganda and Sudan.
In response, East-West Seed Knowledge Transfer Foundation’s Uganda team is working with the University of Juba, located in the South Sudanese capital, to share agricultural knowledge and provide hands-on training in vegetable production. This summer, a hugely successful agricultural Field Day held at the university was a testament to this collaboration.
The West Nile region of Uganda, which borders South Sudan, is a strategic location for EWS-KT. Our learning sites and on-farm demonstrations there are multipurpose, serving both farmers and sector professionals. Since we began working in northern Uganda in 2017, we have trained over 50,000 smallholder farmers in the vegetable sector. Our work in West Nile has included capacity building of refugees—the majority of whom are from South Sudan—as well as host communities.
Training the Trainers
Training agricultural extension providers and other vegetable sector professionals is one way to accelerate the spread of improved farming techniques to farmers in countries like South Sudan.
In the second half of 2021, EWS-KT held an intensive training of trainers on improved vegetable production, based at our learning site in West Nile. This was part of a set of trainings under the Building Resilient Food Systems in Protracted Crisis Situations: Horticulture for Improved Nutrition and Income Generation project and the Horn of Africa Food System Resilience: Making Horticulture Work for Healthier Diets and Income Generation in Protracted Crises project, both sponsored by Nuffic with technical support from Wageningen University & Research.
Participating institutions from South Sudan included the University of Juba, Dr. John Garang Memorial University, Yei Agricultural Training Center, and the Department of Agricultural Research. This training of trainers was planned as a practical hands-on training on the EWS-KT learning farm in West Nile. However, due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, the training was conducted virtually.
This nevertheless marked the start of an excellent relationship between the University of Juba and EWS-KT, and from January to March 2022, three participants from the university were able to travel to West Nile for intensive practical training. Two experienced EWS-KT field staff from Uganda subsequently helped to develop a learning farm on the university grounds in Juba.
A Learning Farm in Juba
At the learning site in Juba, plots of tomato, eggplant, cabbage, cauliflower, cucumber, sweet corn, and cowpea were soon on display. Through this new learning farm, 843 people (562 men and 281 women) were trained in various aspects of vegetable production, from production planning, seedling raising, and transplanting to plant nutrition, irrigation, pest and disease management, and harvest and post-harvest handling.
A fantastic crop cycle culminated in a Field Day in Juba in May 2022. The event was attended by over 100 people. Among them were university staff, Nuffic representatives, government officials, university students, a representative from the Dutch Embassy, and, of course, farmers. In a place widely regarded as nearly impossible to grow vegetables in, everyone in attendance witnessed what good practices and quality seeds could achieve.
A Hub for Good Practices
Following the success of the vegetable learning site at the University of Juba, the learning farm was replicated at Dr. John Garang Memorial University, located about four hours north of Juba in the town of Bor.
Our team in northern Uganda has created a reliable training hub that is positioned to serve Uganda, South Sudan, and the rest of the Horn of Africa. This pilot work is a chance for EWS-KT to explore opportunities and challenges in the area and decide how we can best support farmers in South Sudan in the future.
In Juba, the next growing season at the university learning site has already begun . . .